Saturday, November 29, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, November 29

Religion and Geopolitics this week includes:

Early in his pontificate the Pope said Catholics must not be trapped into "obsessing about homosexuality, contraception and abortion," He said there are more fundamental truths that must be emphasized and these "issues" would fall in place in some larger, more understandable context. The Conference of worldwide religious leaders on the Complementarity of Male and Female held in Rome from November 17th-19th was a beautiful and bracing illustration of the Pope's approach. The series of interesting and different speakers is supplemented by a link to the stunning video presentation produced by organizers of the conference. This cosmological and anthropological approach to masculinity and femininity is exactly the widening of the playing field needed for Catholic thinkers to enter all these debates on our own terms. The talks are excellent - from the Pope to Rabbi Sacks to N.T. Wright to Peter Kreeft and Fr Barron. The approach is the most fundamental lesson. The narrowing issue approach has given way to the Church explaining the larger reality from which our position on issues is derived.

The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia see the Muslim Brotherhood as grave threats, not because of any extremism within the Brotherhood, but because it is a threat to their current political system. As the United States helps fight the Islamic State, it is important we weigh our relationships with Sunni Arab states like Saudi Arabia and the UAE and not allow ourselves to be drawn into the fear of the royal autocracies for democratic Muslim movements.

Advances in military technology often have broader geopolitical impact. The Russians, for example, completed a project the US has been unable to accomplish in updating its armored vehicles. The Armata program has given the Russian military a new platform from which to build battle tanks and armored infantry carriers. New focus has been placed on crew protection and better protection for arctic conditions - signs that Russia is investing in its tank crews and in protecting strategic resources in the far north. While Russia is looking at advancing its ground forces, the United States has advanced its air and sea power through the successful testing of the new F-35 at sea. The F-35, modified for use by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, is a "fifth generation" aircraft that will help maintain air and sea dominance in the decades ahead. It is also a large part of America's "Asian pivot" to counter rising China. Given this, along with vocal US strategists speaking on war with China, China may be less inclined to cooperate with the United States regarding military matters and is indeed making strategic plans of its own. The outcome is not as certain as this writer would put it. However  it seems like  a deeper Russian-Chinese partnership is more and more likely.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Map on Monday: German Invasions of France

Between 1870 and 1940, Germans invaded France three times. Although these three clashes took place in modern times, feuding between the two nations may be traced back to the division of Charlemagne's empire at the Treaty of Verdun in 843. In the division, a strip of territory between what would one day become France and Germany became the area in which many of the battles below were fought. Indeed, the victors of the Franco-Prussian War (1870) and World War I (1914-1918) claimed lands in this very region.  

The map above (click to enlarge) depicts the Prussian (German) invasion of France by way of Alsace and Lorraine during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. This war came as the third successive war in German unification (the first two were fought with Denmark to secure the German north, and with Austria-Hungary to secure the southeast). From these wars emerged the new German way of war - quick, deadly, and decisive. The rapid maneuvering of the Germans at the outset of the war with the French led quickly to the decisive Battle of Sedan on September 1, 1870. Entrapped by the Germans, the entire French army was forced to surrender along with their commander, Emperor Napoleon III (whose reign that day came to an unceremonious end). With the war's conclusion, Alsace and Lorraine changed hands to the Germans and the German wars of unification were complete.

Germany sought another rapid war with the French in 1914. The map above (click to enlarge) is a map of the Schlieffen Plan - a plan originally drafted in 1905 but largely became the basis for the German strategy in the opening offensive against the French. The plan of attack was a large sweeping action with forces from the north wheeling around to capture Paris from behind. The large forces coming through neutral Belgium, however, brought the British into the war. As the opening German campaign sputtered to a halt, British reinforcements and freshly dug trenches defeated the German plans for a quick and decisive war. With the eventual defeat of Germany, Alsace and Lorraine changed hands once more and returned to the French (who then began building the famed Maginot Line of defenses against future German aggression).

With the rise of Hitler, a German war with France loomed on the horizon once more. The German army drafted two plans of attack (see above) and chose the plan most similar to the rapid offensive of 1870. The larger, mechanized armies of the 1940's led the German war planners to bypass assaulting the Maginot Line for a bold offensive through the lightly protected Ardennes forest, making a drive for the coast while Allied troops were drawn into combat in Belgium and surrounded. The brilliant plan was executed with perfection, and the Allied forces were cut to pieces and forced to withdraw by sea from Dunkirk. Nevertheless, the Germans captured 40,000 men along with 50,000 vehicles. Paris capitulated in under six short weeks of fighting - and the Maginot Line surrendered as part of the brief war's concluding armistice and the rise of Vichy France.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, November 22

Religion and Geopolitics this week includes:

In baseball, left-handed pitching aces are always at a premium; so too, alas, prison wardens who know how to bring desperate men into the hope of the living LORD are a rarity. This country is blessed to have such a warden in charge of our largest prison.

When Peter was confronted by the servant girl in the courtyard he stammered and stuttered when asked if he followed Christ. Cardinal Sean O'Malley seems even more tongue-tied in explaining why the male priesthood is not "immoral" to a feminist TV reporter on 60 Minutes. The best he could do was to say it can't be immoral because Christ wouldn't be immoral, but if he (Cardinal O'Malley) was starting a church, he would have women priests. This embarrassing anthropological confusion and underhanded insult to Our Lord makes the male priesthood incomprehensible not just to lady reporters, but to young seminarians and old priests bereft of a father's voice in dioceses like Boston. The reason so many young teenage males were abused in the Catholic Church is because the careerists who have advanced in the American hierarchy have no father in them. Listen here as an apostle replays Peter in the courtyard. We can only pray that he will see the face of Christ, hear his own words of betrayal, and go somewhere to weep.

An excellent overview with maps and charts of the US relations in Asia by Heritage Foundation researchers.

One way to look at the Russian Bear is through the eyes of the Germans as Germans, While many words have been spoken and much ink spilled over Putin's presence in the Baltic Sea and over the skies of the Baltic States, Vladimir Putin - Slavic and Orthodox - has his eyes in the Balkan nations of Europe's southeast. This assessment of the influence of Russia's Putin with other Balkan nations is sobering.

Nations need leaders like the body needs its head. Narenda Modi of India delayed a WTO agreement a few months ago and the pro-business nationalist was labeled a short-sighted obstructionist by the "free trade community." Modi is all for easing barriers to trade in many areas, but food security for his nation was not on the table. The WTO has tied acceptance of its multifaceted treaties with a requirement that nations not subsidize more than 10% of food production for their own populations. This magic number "destabilizes" markets. Obviously, many nations see food production as a part of the national economy ruled by other dictates than elastic pricing and free trade. Mr. Modi held out and his willingness to ease trade barriers in other areas will not depend on his surrendering his governmental duty to feed his people at home. It was a practical lesson in achieving progress in international trade without sacrificing economic nationalism.

On November 13, 2014, The Pew Research Project on Religion and Public Life released a 310-page document on 'Religion in Latin America: Widespread Change in a Historically Catholic Region.' It is an excellent introduction to help us study and ask when the sleeping giants of the Iberian Catholic tradition will reenter the arena of world politics as Catholic nations led by Catholic statesmen.

On this day in 1718, the ruthless Blackbeard met his bloody end in a sea-fight off the Carolina coast. (The first quarter of the 18th century was the Heyday of Pirates, as they preyed upon the commercial routes between Europe and the New World. And where was their safe haven -- the locale "where they [went] to restock, sell their loot, repair their ships and recruit more men"? The British Caribbean.) See also: The Golden Age of Piracy.

President John F. Kennedy died 51 years ago today. He was America's first Catholic president and a masculine liberal who understood that men of different religious creeds were bound by their civic duties against the common threat of armed atheism. He called men to this brotherhood of protective duty in nations large and small.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Map on Monday: World War I Redraws European Boundaries

The map above depicts the European map during the years of World War I. Below is a map which looks strikingly different. It is the redrawn map of Europe following the defeat of the Central Powers in 1918.

The most significant changes between the two maps may be found in the Balkans and around the Baltic Sea. The Austro-Hungarian Empire, defeated in war, was broken up and the many nations which were conglomerated within her were given the ability to rule themselves as governing states. In the decades ahead, however, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia would themselves require more separation as the nations within them had yet to achieve statehood. In the northeast, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia appeared out of what was once a part of the Russian Empire - which itself had now fallen to militant atheists under Lenin's communist USSR. Though it had a long history of statehood, Poland re-appeared as yet another new nation on the post Great War map.

Other areas had changed to a lesser degree. Germany was now cut off from East Prussia due to a land corridor of the newly formed Poland which gave it access to the sea. Italy had shifted slightly, gaining further territory to the northeast in Tyrolia. France, victorious in war, regained the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine which it had lost to the Germans following a stunning defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (indeed Germany had hoped its 1914 campaign in France would have been as successful as the one in 1870).

An often overlooked area of the map is the division of the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish nation will be the first secular regime emerging from the Ottoman caliphate. Much of today's Mideast map was reconfigured from the Ottoman Empire's dismemberment. The map below demonstrates:

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, November 15

Religion and Geopolitics Review this week includes:

Mark Judge discusses what happened to our souls.

There has probably never been a president in US history so bereft of a male group of advisors as President Obama. His authority figures resemble his anthropologist white mother far more than his Kenyan black father. The queen of his internal female cadre is Valerie Jarrett. Here are a few interesting profiles.

Another speech at the Berlin Wall should be listened to as carefully as the JFK and Reagan speeches that helped tear down the wall. Mikhail Gorbachev, on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Wall, warned against a new and dangerous barrier being erected by NATO and the West against Russia. This interview is a good introduction to the thinking which underlies the animus of many prominent US Catholics to Vladimir Putin, Russia and leaders of the Orthodox Church

Nigeria has the largest population (175 million) and GDP in Africa, but it is really two nations. The Muslim north would be the fifth-largest Muslim country in the world, and the Christian south would be the 6th-largest Christian country. The girls captured by the Muslim Boko Haram were in a government school in the north. They couldn't be rescued because the Nigerian federal government based in the Christian south doesn't militarily control the rest of the nation. The oil of Nigeria is overwhelmingly in the Christian south. The other important communal divisions in the country are the many ethnic groups with three dominant groups. Nigeria exists on a cultural fault line where "earthquakes of State" are bound to happen.

The continued role of the US in NATO is one of the central strategic questions we face as a nation. A succinct review of our problem by an eminent military historian.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday BookReview: the perspective of the Central Powers in the Great War

                                                          Serbian officers preparing to fire on Austrians                                                              

One of the volumes in most Top Ten lists about the Great War is The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary 1914-1918. Holger Herwig, who has taught for years up in Calgary, wrote the book two decades ago.

From a reader's reaction:
"The most interesting aspect of the book was the relations between Germany and Austria-Hungary... [Herwig writes] about the strained relations between the two most important Central Powers in great detail. In theory, they started the war as equals, but that changed by 1915. After the first year of the war, Austria-Hungary became increasingly dependent upon Germany during the major campaigns in the East. German soldiers also propped up the Austro-Hungarians in Italy. According to Herwig, the Austro-Hungarians lost any ability to continue the war without German support after the Brusilov Offensive of 1916. 

"The author stressed that the two powers did not always cooperate. Both sides lied to each other about their plans in Russia in 1914. The Austro-Hungarians waged an ill-fated offensive into Italy in 1916... The best example of their lack of cooperation was when Emperor Karl of Austria-Hungary actually proposed that Germany cede Alsace-Lorraine to France... Herwig also wrote about the strain between these two allies in regards to who would get supplies (especially food) from Romania and Russia. 

"The Habsburg Empire also had to play a careful balancing act between its myriad of nationalities. Some, such as the Czechs, were reluctant to fight the Russians, and many deserted. There was also a great deal of mutual antagonism between those national groups. Many groups in the Hungarian section of the Empire resented the high-handed nature of their Magyar overlords. According to Herwig, the Hungarians resented having to turn over some of their food to the Austrian part of the Empire. 

"The relationship that Herwig portrayed between Germany and Austria-Hungary paralleled that of Great Britain and the Thirteen Colonies in the French and Indian War (1754-1760 in North America). The dominant power (Germany) looked down on the other power as being weak and petty in its self-interests; consider the quote: 'We are allied to a corpse.' On the other hand, the weaker power (Austria-Hungary) resented being taken for granted and bossed around by Germany. In 1918, Ludendorff even proposed that Germany should invade Austria-Hungary if relations continued to deteriorate."

From an interview with Professor Herwig:

Do you sense a resurgence of interest in military history?
"Yes. And it’s mostly by young people. World War II is now basically their grandparents’ memory, so they’ve heard very little about war from their parents. And in Canada, they have this image that we’ve always been peacekeepers—wearing blue helmets and never firing a shot. Our combat role in Afghanistan is helping change that image. But many young people are still really surprised to learn Canadians played a significant combat role in the Boer War, both world wars and the Korean conflict. They are amazed to learn that, coming out of World War II, Canada had the world’s third largest navy and was immediately tasked by NATO with patrolling the Atlantic against Soviet submarines."

So there’s keen interest, but not a high level of knowledge?
"Unfortunately, no. Our high schools are failing to teach Canadian history—including our military history."

Why is that so important?
"It can be argued that Canada came of age during the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917. That’s when the Canadian Corps did what the British and French could not do. That’s when our troops became first-rate, front-line fighters commanded by Canadians—and not just cannon fodder for the British Empire. Our young people need to know that."
                                                                                                                       Austrian cavalryman

 A new work, with similar emphases, has now been issued: Ring of Steel by British historian Alexander Watson.

From a review of the book in the 'Guardian' newspaper --
"Its starting point is that, however terrible the war was for the British – with a million dead – it was much, much worse for the peoples of central and eastern Europe. It didn't just kill huge numbers of them, it brought shattering defeat and ushered in a century of political upheaval and ethnic conflict."
 A couple comments from readers:
"The Germans and Austrian governments were surrounded by a ring of steel. Great Britain had the best navy in the world which was used to blockade German ports. As a result there was mass hunger and in some cases even starvation in the Reich and Austria-Hungary. The Germans and Austrians faced better equipped and armed enemies, losing millions of men in the trench warfare of the Western Front. The Russians invaded Germany and surrounded the Kaiser's.. over-matched army." 
"The [Habsburg monarchy's] officer class proved far more effective at hounding its ethnic minorities into active dissent than in actually defeating opponents in the field, and its Hungarian oligarchs in the east were brutally selfish and suicidally myopic in their narrow focus on ethnic hegemony."

Professor Watson describes how, in the Habsburg empire, "mobilisation took place within individual national communities, each of which understood the war in different ways. This became a problem as the war dragged on and the claims of different national groups clashed."

From a review in the 'Financial Times':
"[Watson] claims that the Allied side was primarily responsible for radicalising the war. Britain plays a central role in his argument, as its entry transformed the conflict into an attritional one between economies and societies. Britain’s blockade, the epitome of economic warfare and at the very least dubious under international law, entailed the targeting of civilians and provoked German unrestricted submarine warfare. 
"The most profound radicalisations took place in eastern Europe, in the lands fought over by German, Habsburg and Russian forces..."
                                                                                German officer helmet

The literature review "Open Doors," based in Boston, points to an intriguing assertion that everything might have been different if the Central Powers could have held out a bit longer, and resisted the temptation to unleash their submarines -- which caused America to declare war in the spring of 1917. 
An excerpt from Ring of Steel:
"Unbeknownst to the Germans, the exertions of the past year had almost bankrupted the British. Paying for food and raw materials such as steel, as well as semi-finished or finished armaments, was costing the Treasury two million pounds a day, and British gold reserves and securities were on course to being exhausted by March 1917. Meanwhile the French army, even more than its German opponent, was demoralized after the bloodletting at Verdun and on the Somme. Its disillusionment with its commanders would break out in a mass strike in the spring and summer of 1917. Most ominous, the Russian Empire was on the verge of revolution. Little over a month after the unrestricted submarine campaign started on 1 February, the Tsar was overthrown by a popular uprising, an event that could have upturned the strategic situation and gifted the Central Powers a real chance of triumph. Instead, as one great enemy gradually collapsed, another, thanks to the U-boat campaign, entered hostilities."

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Three among the poets killed in the First War

ALAN SEEGER, an American who had joined the French Foreign Legion, died on July 4, 1916 -- in the Battle of the Somme.

This is "On Returning to the Front after Leave: Sonnet XI":

Apart sweet women (for whom Heaven be blessed),
Comrades, you cannot think how thin and blue
Look the leftovers of mankind that rest,
Now that the cream has been skimmed off in you.
War has its horrors, but has this of good—
That its sure processes sort out and bind
Brave hearts in one intrepid brotherhood
And leave the shams and imbeciles behind.
Now turn we joyful to the great attacks,
Not only that we face in a fair field
Our valiant foe and all his deadly tools,
But also that we turn disdainful backs
On that poor world we scorn yet die to shield—
That world of cowards, hypocrites, and fools.

One man whose star seems to burn brighter and brighter in Catholic culture and beyond is CHARLES PEGUY. He was killed about a month after the war started.

He always sang of the mystery of Hope, the frailest of the virtues; but the one that's new every morning, and the one that -- stride for persevering stride -- pulls and guides her two older sisters (Faith and Love) down the street.

Hope "surprises even God." It is the eternal flame in the lamp.

Here is PĆ©guy's poem entitled "Sleep":

Human wisdom says Don’t put off until tomorrow 
What can be done the very same day.
But I tell you that he who knows how to put off until tomorrow
Is the most agreeable to God
He who sleeps like a child
Is also he who sleeps like my darling Hope.
And I tell you Put off until tomorrow
Those worries and those troubles which are gnawing at you today
Put off until tomorrow those sobs that choke you
When you see today’s unhappiness.
Those sobs which rise up and strangle you.
Put off until tomorrow those tears which fill your eyes and your head,
Flooding you, rolling down your cheeks, those tears which stream down your cheeks.
Because between now and tomorrow, maybe I, God, will have passed by your way.
Human wisdom says: Woe to the man who puts off what he has to do until tomorrow.
And I say Blessed, blessed is the man who puts off what he has to do until tomorrow.
Blessed is he who puts off. That is to say, blessed is he who hopes. And who sleeps.

JULIAN GRENFELL was an Englishman who was killed in northern France in 1915. His best-known poem -- "Into Battle" -- was first published in the 'Times' of London the day after he died.

The naked earth is warm with spring, 
And with green grass and bursting trees 
Leans to the sun's gaze glorying, 
And quivers in the sunny breeze; 
And life is colour and warmth and light, 
And a striving evermore for these; 
And he is dead who will not fight; 
And who dies fighting has increase.

The fighting man shall from the sun 
Take warmth, and life from the glowing earth; 
Speed with the light-foot winds to run, 
And with the trees to newer birth; 
And find, when fighting shall be done, 
Great rest, and fullness after dearth.

All the bright company of Heaven 
Hold him in their high comradeship, 
The Dog-Star, and the Sisters Seven, 
Orion's Belt and sworded hip.

The woodland trees that stand together, 
They stand to him each one a friend; 
They gently speak in the windy weather; 
They guide to valley and ridge's end.

The kestrel hovering by day, 
And the little owls that call by night, 
Bid him be swift and keen as they, 
As keen of ear, as swift of sight.

The blackbird sings to him, "Brother, brother, 
If this be the last song you shall sing, 
Sing well, for you may not sing another; 
Brother, sing."

In dreary, doubtful, waiting hours, 
Before the brazen frenzy starts, 
The horses show him nobler powers; 
O patient eyes, courageous hearts!

And when the burning moment breaks, 
And all things else are out of mind, 
And only joy of battle takes 
Him by the throat, and makes him blind,

Through joy and blindness he shall know, 
Not caring much to know, that still 
Nor lead nor steel shall reach him, so 
That it be not the Destined Will.

The thundering line of battle stands, 
And in the air death moans and sings; 
But Day shall clasp him with strong hands, 
And Night shall fold him in soft wings.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Map on Monday: World War I Edition

The above map (click to enlarge) comes not from a history book of World War I, but rather from a board game designed by Harvard-educated Allan B. Calhamer in 1954. Set in the years leading up to the Great War, the game Diplomacy allows the players to interact with the complicated diplomatic situation that ultimately led to the events of 1914. Unlike a game like Risk, in which players are given dozens of army pieces for combat, Diplomacy players typically begin the game with only three pieces (which represent armies or fleets) and must negotiate with other nations for mutual support. This makes the game as much social as it is strategic and historic. For more on Diplomacy, see section three of the article Strategy Games: The Gateway to Culture and Geopolitics.

An analysis of the map may reveal some geographic reasons for the war's alliances. Germany (gray) and Austria-Hungary (red) are located in between the major powers of Russia (tan), France, (light blue), and England (dark blue). Italy (green) found itself in a similar situation as Germany and Austria-Hungary -- and for this reason Italy was actually allied with both at the war's beginning. Italy, however, saw this alliance as defensive and refused to join the war when Austria-Hungary made the first declaration of war. Italy eventually joined the Allied side as the war turned. The Ottoman Empire (yellow) is isolated in the southeast, but has its eyes set on regaining its position in the Balkans; and its proximity to the Black Sea creates natural tension with its northern neighbor: Russia. Given this situation, the Ottoman Empire's eventual hostilities with the Allies makes a good deal of sense. 

What neither the map nor the game of Diplomacy directly represents is the influence of religion and other civilizational matters that factor into alliance-making. The winning alliance to Diplomacy is the so-called "Juggernaut" -- an alliance between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. It is highly unlikely, due to the bloody history between the Islamic Turks and the Orthodox Russians, that such an alliance could ever have taken place. 

Diplomacy is nevertheless a remarkable means of introducing students to the history leading up to the war, the geography of Europe, and the intricacies of crafting foreign policy and alliance-building.  

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, November 8

Religion and Geopolitics Review this week includes:
Vladimir Putin took part in the final plenary meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club’s XI session. The meeting’s theme is The World Order: New Rules or a Game without Rules. In the full text of his address, Putin comments on the fall-out following the end of the Cold War and the troubling world order imposed by the victors.

This interview with Dr. Justin Tse of the University of Washington addresses the theopolitcal chess game between China and Hong Kong. Justin Tse speaks to the role of religion in the struggle, the nature of Church-State relations, and the Catholic strategy in the region.

This week in the office of readings for the Catholic Church, the story of the Maccabees and their battle to reconsecrate the desecrated altar in the Temple is told. At Mass on Sunday, our Lord will cleanse the Temple from the money-changers. In Jerusalem, that holy space of the Temple Mount is now covered by the Dome of the Rock, commemorating the site of Mohammed being swept up from prayer in Mecca to this site where he ascended into heaven for an encounter with the Divine and then returned to earth. The  Al-Aqsa Mosque is nearby. The Dome itself is not a mosque. This article outlines different claims to the holy site which has seen renewed violence this week. Orthodox Jews believe no one should enter what was once the Holy of Holies. Muslims believe only Muslims can pray there, but tourists can come if they don't pray. That position has been enforced by the Israeli government since 1967. At different times the Israeli authorities have banned Muslim men under 50, or under 30, from Friday prayer. An important fact not in the article is that the Hashemites of Jordan are considered by the Israelis as the official custodians of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. Disputes about the shrine are central to Israel/Jordan relationships, and the credibility of Jordan as a non-Saudi religious authority for Sunni Muslims. There is a growing movement in Israel to open the site for Jewish prayer.
In this 2012 interview with King Abdullah of Jordan, Abdullah explains the possibility of an Assad Alawite enclave, the breakdown of Greater Syria, and the early role of Russia in proposing political solutions. Assad cannot leave his people. His departure is no solution for the Alawites. Jordan is the one neighboring Sunni Arab nation which could possibly fill the state gap in the land now controlled by ISIS.

US Naval War College professor James Holmes examines China President Xi Jinping and sees a new Teddy Roosevelt building sea power to buttress national identity and strategy.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Map on Monday: Where the volcanoes are

"I fell into a burning ring of fire, 
 I went down, down, down as the flames went higher..." 
                 (Johnny Cash)


The Ring of Fire region contains more than 75 percent of the world's volcanoes (in the same way that Alaska is home to more than 75 percent of all U.S. volcanoes). Think the west coasts of South and North America -- across the Bering Strait -- and the east coasts of Russia/China, along with Japan (10 percent of world's active volcanoes) and Indonesia...

What explains the location of these volcanoes is the "map beneath the map" of oceans and continents that we see. Beneath our water and land forms are the tectonic plates (4 to 40 mile-thick layers of crust and mantle) which interact with each other to form not only volcanoes, but many other of the most significant land forms of the earth. Geologists recognized the great ring of fire before they knew about the plates, and their boundary interactions which account for the up-welling of volcanic molten rock.


The red line is known as the ring of fire. It demarcates the active borders of the western Pacific plate and the oceanic land plate interactions to the east. The Andes mountains on the west coast of South America are volcanic remnants from the interaction of the Nazca ocean plate passing under the continental South American plate. All geography classes after 6th grade should start with the map beneath the map of plate tectonics.            

A recent article in the British "Daily Mail" had excellent photos of an Indonesian volcano.